Rocky relationships

Nancy Nyquist Potter

in Mapping the Edges and the In-between

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780198530213
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754388 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Rocky relationships

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My interest in this chapter is in the normative force of these ideas in shaping assessments of women and potential pathological symptoms. If mature, healthy women are (normatively) expected to form and value attachments, relationality, and connectedness, does this expectation cloud clinicians’ judgments when they perceive women who do not conform to the norm? Are women who present with unstable interpersonal relationships more likely to be viewed as pathologically relationally troubled? I suggest that the norms of womanhood influence how we view women's relationship troubles, but clinical studies will be necessary to address this question (cf. Flanagan and Blashfield 2003; Linehan 1993).

I also suggest that a complementary way to the DSMs in thinking about women in tumultuous relationships is to focus on trust and betrayal, home and homesickness, and connection and repair. In sorting out what counts as a healthy relationship and what counts as a pathological one, we need to examine how the formation of early betrayal along with a need for connection leads to vacillating attitudes toward those the BPD patient wants to trust. Thus, clinicians need to develop an ethic of trustworthiness that allows for patients to learn that it is sometimes safe to trust another. Trust and trustworthiness are so central to patient recovery from BPD, and so difficult to navigate given entrenched distrust, that I devote a chapter to the ethic of trustworthiness in Part II of this book. Finally, because emotions are one of the most culturally embedded aspects of our inner world and because the rules and reasons for forming relationships are cultural (Greenberg and Goldman 2008), we must treat people in their particularity and their local contexts and not as abstract or representational entities.

Chapter.  7149 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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